“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” So wrote Sir Walter Scott. And boy, was he right. Our family is currently embroiled in a most tangled web, and it’s entirely the fault of the Man and I. Simply put, we’re screwed.
Let me explain. Some months back, Kiersten’s beloved Chococat doll, whom she called Choco-Kitty, disappeared. We combed every inch of the house, yard, and car. Nothing. We racked our brains: where had Choco last been seen? Our best guess was that he’d been unwittingly knocked into the parking lot on our way in or out of the car. When or where, we had no idea.
Missing: one tiny black kitty-cat with large eyes, a blue collar, and one whisker missing. Oh, and he’s stuffed.
The Maiden was devastated, and so were we. She’d lost her second-best-friend. (Her best friend is almost as big as she is, so she’d be hard to miss). The Man felt sorry for her. As for me– when I was five, I left my beloved stuffed duck, Terry, in the hardware store– and when we went back for him, he was gone. To think of yet another doll and child parted by the cruelty of fate brought tears to my eyes, and it wasn’t just for the Maiden and Choco. I have never, to this day, gotten over the loss of Terry. Sniff. Sniff.
To deal with her loss, the Maiden (clearly more practical-minded than her mother) decided that Choco, in a fit of mischief, had decided to run away. She kept hoping he’d appear one day, flushed with adventure and anxious to be home. We let her hope against hope, and began scouring stores and e-bay to help her keep faith in the inherent goodness of stuffed kittens. Unfortunately, the only replacement we found was $50. The Man’s pity and my nostalgia didn’t quite extend that far, so we kept searching.
Months passed. Then, out of the blue, the Man found a very comparable doll at the toy store. It was a little bigger, and its whiskers were whole, but other than that, it was an exact replica. But how to give it to the Maiden? Tell her it was a replacement? We couldn’t do that to her. She wanted her Choco to come home.
So we set up an elaborate hoax. We had new-Choco ring the doorbell one night, and when the Maiden opened it, there was her prodigal cat. She sobbed tears of joy as she hugged the wanderer, covered him with kisses, and clutched him to her heart. We explained the size change: he’d grown during his time away. And his whisker had, of course, grown back. The Maiden loved that new-Choco, and they were the happiest pair on earth.
Fast forward three months. The weather had turned cold, and the Man pulled on his leather jacket. As he reached into his pocket, he felt something soft and catlike.
Crap. CRAP. It was the original Choco. The original, tiny, lost Choco, small of stature and missing a whisker. He’d been languishing there for half a year, waiting to be discovered. Meanwhile, the faux-Choco was enjoying the Maiden’s love and attention. And there we were, stuck.
And a couple days later, we’re still stuck. And we’re agonizing. What on earth can we do? We have to give her the original back. It was her beloved doll, and we just can’t, in conscience, dispose of him. But then how to explain the new Choco, especially since we told her it was the original?
We could extend our fib and pretend the original Choco is another, distant cousin. But she’d recognize his missing whisker and ask some pretty tough questions. Of course, we could always make up some fantastic kitty anatomy fact, like “all black cats lose whiskers when they’re a certain age”. But then she’d remember it in perpetuity, and start asking us why old-Choco didn’t grow in height and get his whisker back as he grew older. I could always attempt to make a pretend substitute whisker, but she might be able to tell the difference.
But weaving a complicated web of deceit had not been particularly successful so far. And we’re worried that the deeper we dig ourselves in, the bigger trouble we’re going to find when her lying-parent radar prods her to start seeking out the truth.
On the other hand, can we really tell her we lied about the faux-Choco? We’re almost leaning that way. Maybe the best way is to just come clean, and explain to her that we did what we did out of love. We’ve been talking about the whole lying and being false vs. telling the truth thing, so are we hypocritical if we extend the hoax? However, if she finds out the truth, how will she be able to trust us in the future? I don’t want her faith in us shaken. She needs something steady to rely on!
And that’s the dilemma. We don’t know what to do. We strongly suspect that we’re overreacting regardless of what we decide, but we are like that. And so is the Maiden, which kind of perpetuates the dilemma. In the meantime, a tiny black kitty is waiting for us to get our act together so that he can be reunited with his old friend!